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4 Years Later – Why the DNC

Dignity is Here stencil

With an opponent like Mitt Romney its a valid question why we are heading to the Democratic National Convention.

The platform coming out of the Republican National Convention and the politics of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan send a clear message of where the party stands.  It represents a roll back not only to immigrant communities, it also rolls back civil and labor rights, the rights of women, bans marriage equality.  All this plus it promises more of the same economic policy continues to advantage the 1% at the cost of the 99%.

It would be easy to say then, that the Democratic Platform presents a clear alternative.  Perhaps on some issues, it does.  But its safe to say there has been deep disapointment from various sectors of the progressive movement in the party’s inability or unwillingness to be bold and present a real alternative to the lunacy of the GOP.  Still a big tent, the Democrats seem to be a party eternally in search of its soul.

During election years it is customary to make political calculations where we end up rolling more like CNN pundits rather than social movements.  Our actions are driven by the idea that we need to choose between the lesser of two evils.  And sometimes, there is an unwillingness to threaten relationships, or turn away funding to only increase the amount of voters participating in the election.  And when there is excitement over a candidate, it seems like we all believe that she or he can change the whole world overnight.

What we leave out of the equation, is us.  Not just to register voters, which is important.  Not just to vote, which is important.  But to continue to pressure, educate and agitate for the things that we want to see changed.  When President Obama was elected almost four years ago, there was an unspoken but real sentiment to let him be, to not pressure him in the beginning months.  In retrospect, it was the wrong approach.

What do I want for Obama?  I want the legacy of the first Black President of the United States to be the advancement of social and political rights for all people who have beenexcluded, who are struggling to survive and be whole and accepted participants in this place we all live.  To do these things is not always politically safe.  To do these things often times guarantees a firestorm of criticism.  To do these things, he must be forced to.  Its  a dilemma that must be posed.  A tension, a conflict.  And you know what?  That doesn’t always feel safe, it doesn’t always feel like its the right call.  Its a risk.  Tension is uncompfortable.  But for migrant communities, its not just uncomfortable, its a crisis.

And for the party in power, the party who seems eternally in search of its soul because of the deep contractions it must carry – they must make a choice.  Obama must choose his legacy, his place in history.  Will the next four years of the Obama Administration break deportation records?  More broadly, will we continue to see the right to organize dismantled?  Will we end these wars of occupation?  Will we take affirmative action to address climate change?  The list goes on.  To place this on one person is lunacy of the GOP kind, so how can we all help determine the outcomes?  Because its not just Obama’s legacy, its yours and mine.

One of the riders, Eleazar said the other day, “Vamos para contar nuestras penas.” [translation: We are going to tell of our hardships].  As the Democrats enter this convention to renew their purpose, these bus riders arrive in Charlotte fighting for their lives.  We need the Democrats to change course on the racist criminalization of our communities.  We demand an end to the InSecure Communities program, 287g.  Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio must be brought to justice.  These are lofty goals, but with many miles behind us, tears, and memories of the many stories of so many people who live this every day – we’re here to try.

This group of riders comes to say here I am.  This is how these policies have affected me, my family, my community.  To come out of the shadows and shine a light on the things no one sees, perhaps no one knows.  To tell a story in hopes of reaching understanding.  Willing to risk it all to be heard and considered.  To show we have no fear, but that we also do not hate.

So Charlotte it is.  Why not the RNC?  They’ve chosen their side of history.  The wrong one.
We can’t wait for it to be politically safe or feasible to pressure Obama and the Democrats.  We’ve come too far to go back.  There is too much to lose, and too many have been lost along the way.

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